Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
How we cite our quotes:
Four fully grown, enormous, vicious-looking dragons were rearing onto their hind legs inside an enclosure fenced with thick planks of wood, roaring and snorting – torrents of fire were shooting into the dark sky from their open, fanged mouths, fifty feet above the ground on their outstretched necks. There was a silvery-blue one with long, pointed horns, snapping and snarling at the wizards on the ground; a smooth-scaled green one, which was writhing and stamping with all its might; a red one with an odd fringe of fine gold spikes around its face, which was shooting mushroom-shaped fire clouds into the air; and a gigantic black one, more lizard-like than the others, which was nearest to them. (19.95)
When we talk about the Harry Potter series, we often think about its larger themes: good vs. evil, prejudice, friendship, and so on. But we don't want to lose sight of the fantastic setting that makes it so memorable. In the middle of all of this grand plotting of Harry vs. Voldemort, we've got this wonderful description of four terrifying beasts. These dragons aren't frightening in the all-powerful way that Voldemort is. They're just awesome, scary lizards that would eat you if they got the chance. They represent a more contained kind of fear – the fear of man vs. large, toothy animal. So we can sit back and enjoy their entertainment value.
Harry barely slept that night. When he awoke on Monday morning, he seriously considered for the first time ever just running away from Hogwarts. But as he looked around the Great Hall at breakfast time, and thought about what leaving the castle would mean, he knew he couldn't do it. It was the only place he had ever been happy ... well, he supposed he must have been happy with his parents too, but he couldn't remember that. (20.14)
One of the things that seems to distinguish Harry's fear of the first task from all the other fear he's felt in his years at Hogwarts is that he knows exactly what's waiting for him this time. This isn't Harry blundering into Professor Quirrell or meeting Remus Lupin in werewolf form – this is no accident. There's a date and a time when he's going to have to face a dragon all by himself, and that time is growing closer and closer. Which do you think is worse: the anticipation, or the actual terrifying event itself? Would it be less frightening for Harry not to know what's waiting for him?
[Harry] stood up, noticing dimly that his legs seemed to be made of marshmallow. He waited. And then he heard the whistle blow. He walked out through the entrance of the tent, the panic rising into a crescendo inside him. And now he was walking past trees, though a gap in the enclosure fence.
He saw everything in front of him as though it was a very highly colored dream. There were hundreds and hundreds of faces staring down at him from stands that had been magicked there since he'd last stood on this spot. And there was the Horntail, at the other end of the enclosure, crouched low over her clutch of legs, her wings half-furled, her evil, yellow eyes upon him, a monstrous, scaly, black lizard, thrashing her spiked tail, leaving yard-long gouge marks in the hard ground. (20.139-40)
This physical description of Harry's fear – his "marshmallow" legs, his sense of disconnection from what's happening, and the feeling that it's all "a very highly colored dream" – really ramps up our own suspense. As J.K. Rowling describes Harry's state of total panic, we can't help but feel at least some sympathetic fear of our own. These descriptions really heighten the thrill of this section of the novel.